This one small tool can deliver a safe and effective full-body burn at home, in the gym, or on the road.
Light, compact, and perfect for exercising at home, in the gym, or even on the road, resistance bands (a.k.a. exercise or fitness bands) are arguably the most convenient and versatile piece of fitness equipment in existence. This one tool provides an infinite number of ways to challenge your muscles—all of which are different from those provided by dumbbells or even your body’s own weight.
“You can hold a band in one hand, two hands, loop it around a pole, tie it around your knees or ankles, step on one side, and more,” says Jason Machowsky, R.D., C.S.C.S., a strength and conditioning specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. And unlike free weights, resistance bands provide more and more resistance as you progress through any given movement. The tighter you pull it, the “heavier” it gets, he says.
Another benefit that’s often overlooked—but incredibly important—is that resistance bands allow you to challenge your muscles from different angles, which helps with everyday tasks. Think about it: You don’t just move your arms side to side or your legs up and down. You want to be able to move in a variety of directions.
To experience the versatility and effectiveness of resistance bands yourself, try this total-body workout created by Machowsky.
How to Do The Total-Body Resistance Band Workout
If you’ve never used this fitness tool before, check out this beginner’s guide to exercise bands.
Walk in place for a few minutes, or do these warmup exercises. Perform two to three sets of eight to 12 reps of each exercise, resting for 30 to 90 seconds between sets.
As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.
1. Seated Row with Resistance Band
Sit with your legs extended, and place the center of the band behind the soles of your feet. If you’re using a long exercise band, you may need to loop it around your feet once or twice. Grab the ends of the band with both hands, arms extended and palms facing each other. Sitting nice and tall, bend at the elbows and pull the band toward your core, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Slowly return to starting position. That’s one rep.
Make it easier: If you have difficulty getting down on the floor, try it in a chair.
Make it harder: Perform the rows from a standing position with knees slightly bent. Keep your core tight throughout the entire movement to keep your torso stationary.
2. Miniband Squats
Place a miniband around your legs, just above your knees. If you don’t have a miniband, simply tie your longer resistance band around your legs. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. From here, push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat as far as comfortable, making sure not to let the band pull your knees in toward each other. Pause, then press through your heels to reverse the movement and return to starting position. That’s one rep.
Make it easier: If you have difficulty using the band for this move, check out these tips for mastering the squat. Focus on performing a regular squat with good form first. You can always add the band as you get stronger.
Make it harder: At the bottom of the squat, pulse up and down before returning to starting position.
3. Resistance Band Chest Punch
Hold one end of a resistance band in each hand, and slide the middle of the band behind your upper back. Get into a split stance with one foot in front of the other for balance. From here, slowly punch both of your arms straight in front of you at shoulder height, straightening your elbows but not locking them. Pause, then slowly bend your arms to return to starting position. That’s one rep. Alternate which foot is forward on each set.
Make it harder: Alternate punching with one arm then the other.
4. Monster Walk (or Band Side Step)
Place a miniband or tie a longer band around your legs, just above your knees. Bend knees slightly with your feet hip-width apart. Step to the side until the band provides resistance, then slide your other foot over to re-create your original stance. Repeat this sidestepping movement for all reps in one direction, and then do the same number of reps in the other direction to complete one set.
Make it harder: Place a second band around your ankles for extra resistance.
5. Resistance Band Biceps Curl
Stand on the middle of the band with your feet hip-width apart, holding one end in each hand. Let your arms hang down by your sides so that the band is taut, but not stretched tight. From here, bend your elbows (not your wrists) to curl both hands to your shoulders. Pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to starting position. That’s one rep.
Make it easier: Bring your feet closer together.
Make it harder: Space your feet wider apart.
6. Band Pull Apart
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and arms extended straight out in front of you, holding the band with both hands. Your hands should be far enough apart that the band is taut, but not stretched tight. From here, draw your shoulder blades together to pull your hands farther apart until your arms are straight out to your sides or as far as comfortable. Pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to starting position. That’s one rep.
Make it harder: Slow down the movement, counting to five as you move in each direction.
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